New Orleans Cemetery Tour

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

We were on a photography workshop with Mark Zablotsky (https://www.markzphotoworkshops.com) After walking the streets for a while, we had breakfast at Cafe Beignet’s, a popular, very efficient little restaurant that moves people quickly, and the food is good.

We then took a cemetery tour with Taylor, a very knowledgeable young man. He had been a chef for 12 years, but finally decided to make a change, to work outside and do tours, so he does the cemetery and a ghost tour at night. There is quite a unique history to the cemeteries of New Orleans since it is below sea level, so at first bodies would float up, especially if it was in a coffin. There is also limited space, so a unique way of doing things was developed. The graves had to be above ground. To keep the bodies in place, the plot was often capped with concrete. The Masons were prevalent and the Catholic Church strong. Rules were made and fees charged for maintenance of each site could be quite expensive. Whole families could be buried in one plot. As many as 35 bodies would be uniquely placed. We visited St. Patrick Cemetery that was started by Irish Catholics in 1841

Mosquitoes being prevalent in the area, Yellow Fever epidemics in 1847 and 1853 were devastating. As many as 1300 people died in a week! There were so many people buried so fast, the sites are haphazard, not in their usual neat rows.

Maintenance fees were high and some families couldn’t keep up. There was an eviction notice on one

The soil being so soft, the tombs would sink, cracking or even bending marble doors.

The wealthy had some very ornate tombs with brick and marble, but most impressive were the crosses and statues on top.

In August of 2005 Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, causing 1800 fatalities and $125 billion in damages, the costliest tropical cyclone in US history. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Katrina). A memorial and the dead are in Charity Hospital Cemetery. The horror would strike again with Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Adjacent to the memorial is a huge field where where the poor or unknown were buried

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